PLAIN CITY, Weber County — A combination of doing the right thing, a quick response and good luck may have prevented a potential shooting at Fremont High School on Monday.
As students returned to the school Tuesday, crisis counselors and Weber County sheriff's deputies were also present to provide support to any student or faculty member who needed to talk, as well as dispel rumors as the school attempts to get back to a sense of normalcy.
"(We want to) make sure the kids understand what happened and there's no longer a threat and they should feel safe coming back to class," said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Lane Findlay.
On Monday, a student at the school saw what she thought was a gun tucked in the waistband of a 16-year-old male student.
"It was just simply by chance that this student happened to catch a glimpse of the gun. It wasn't something where he was flaunting it or brandishing it by any means. It was concealed. It was just complete chance another student happened to catch a brief glimpse of it," Findlay said.
The girl immediately found the school resource officer, who in turn immediately tracked down the student with the gun.
"I believe that played a pretty important role in that I don't think he anticipated that. He was pretty surprised by that," Findlay said.
The 16-year-old cooperated with investigators and admitted that brought the loaded gun intending to shoot a girl at the school, possibly a former girlfriend, and then "open fire on the rest of the school," the lieutenant said.
"His statements were he was upset. He had heard some people talking about him, spreading rumors. He was extremely upset about it. He took the gun and went to school and was going to shoot the person responsible," Findlay said.
The boy reportedly did not specifically name his intended target, only that it was "the person responsible" for the rumors, which is believed to be the ex-girlfriend, Findlay said.
The gun, a semi-automatic handgun, was loaded. It had the capacity to hold 11 rounds. Findlay did not know Tuesday how many rounds were in the gun. He did not believe the student had additional ammunition in his pockets or backpack.
The gun was believed to have been taken from the boy's home without the gun owner's knowledge, he said.
The high school junior, who was not identified, was booked into juvenile detention for investigation of possession of a weapon with intent to assault, possession of a firearm in a restricted area, and possession of a firearm by a minor. All potential charges are misdemeanors.
Police talked to the girl believed to be the intended target and her family Monday night. It was not immediately known whether that girl returned to school on Tuesday.
Because of vague statements initially made by the teenage gunman, police said extra officers from several departments were sent to the school Monday afternoon for a complete sweep of the building and the students.
"Initially, when they detained this kid, he made kind of ambiguous statements when asked if anyone else was involved. He said, 'I don't know,'" Findlay said.
Because of that, officers dressed in full SWAT gear watched over many of the students as deputies one-by-one instructed students to exit their classrooms, undergo a search, and then exit the building. Students were told to leave their backpacks in their classrooms.
Many students were forced to wait up to four hours in their classroom before they were allowed to leave. Many took to social media, tweeting pictures of the events and messages that they were hungry. Many also tweeted that they were happy no one was hurt.
"The kids out there were just absolutely wonderful. We certainly appreciated their patience, their cooperation. They remained calm. They did exactly what they were asked to do," Findlay said.
The students may have had to wait even longer if the sweep of the school hadn't gone smoothly, he said. Extra female officers from the Weber County Jail and 2nd District Court were brought to the school to help the search of female students go quicker.
Just a few weeks ago, the school held a lockdown drill for exactly the same scenario they faced Monday.
"I believe that education, the training, the students were prepared for something like this. The students knew what they needed to do," Findlay said.
A few pocket knives unrelated to the shooting plot were discovered during the search and were seized, he said.
As for the student who is being credited for thwarting the shooting plot, Weber County School District spokesman Nate Taggart said she will be publicly recognized when she's ready.
"There will be some sort of recognition. But it's when the family is ready for it and how they want to receive that. We're putting that into their hands at this point," he said.